At this point in the Wii's lifecycle, we've seen enough terrible budget releases that a game like Real Heroes: Firefighter - with its generic title, cover art, and even token press quote -- should very well set off red flags. But resist the urge to cast this one aside on a glance: though this budget firefighting sim is unlikely to displace more robust first-person shooters and action games on the platform, it makes admirable use of the Wii Remote to offer a pretty solid simulation of the diverse challenges that face these real-life protectors.
Real Heroes is patterned after traditional first-person shooters, but instead of disposing of rival nations' soldiers en masse, your task in this adventure is to put out huge blazes and rescue trapped victims and fallen comrades. The Wii Remote is the perfect tool to simulate wielding a fire hose and/or extinguisher amidst a burning warehouse or neighborhood, and aside from some overly sensitive pointer aiming, it feels pretty intuitive to rush around and put out flames.
Despite their namesake, firefighters do much more than simply wash out rogue flames - you'll also need to chop through pillars, saw through walls and other obstacles, and use the hydraulic "jaws of life" to bust open jammed car and elevator doors. Constantly swapping between tools (such as an axe and crowbar) can be annoying, but most of the activities are pretty well represented and easily performed, making Firefighter an ideal choice for casual or younger players.
Experienced players, on the other hand, are more likely to take issue with a variety of annoyances, some probably attributable to the budget nature of the project. Dumb-as-bricks AI characters - which will run in front of your hose or halt upon reaching a single flame on an otherwise-cleared path - take away from the immersion, but our biggest let-down was a total lack of personality. Aside from the actual fires, which blaze on and spread in a fairly impressive manner, the game's drab visual tone and uninteresting characters (despite voice acting from the likes of James Marsters (who played Spike on Buffy/Angel) and comedian Jamie Kennedy) make it hard to truly engage with the narrative and feel the camaraderie with your squad mates.
Not helping matters is the game's rather short length: we burned (pun intended) through the adventure in about four hours - not quite long enough to develop any memorable characters. And considering how much time is spent working alongside other firefighters, the game seems ready-made for some sort of cooperative mode, but sadly, no multiplayer options of any type are included. But as long as you're cool with the low-frills nature of the experience, the action in Real Heroes: Firefighter is unlike anything else on the Wii - which alone may be worth it for some.
Sep 3, 2009